Coping When Your Loved One is Facing a Terminal Illness
As a loved one moves through their final stage in life, your support matters perhaps more than it ever has. However, it is sometimes difficult to understand how to best help your loved one and cope with your own emotions and experience. Sometimes it feels easier to simply ignore the reality you are currently facing or even pretend everything is fine. In most cases, this is not healthy. Ultimately, it can strain the relationship between you and your loved one and hurt your emotional health.
There are a few tips that can help you and your loved one cope with the immediate situation. Following them might help you to find comfort in where you are at today and even reassurance about the end of life.
Acknowledge the Truth
Death is an awkward subject to talk about it. It is even more difficult when the terminally ill person is someone you love. However, completely avoiding the topic often increases the stress level for you and your loved one. Instead, it is better to have some honest conversations and face the truth.
Knowing where to start the conversation is often challenging. Sometimes, starting with the simplest of statements helps the most. Admit that you are scared. Listen to your loved one. Let them take the lead if that feels right. This is also an excellent time to consult with your hospice social worker, counselor or chaplain for guidance and support.
Stay True to Your Emotions
When a loved one is dying, it is common to feel like you need to act happy around them all the time. Keeping that perma-grin on your face is often exhausting, and it usually prevents your loved one from honestly expressing their emotions too. Know that it is okay to cry, say that you are sad or even express some anger in a healthy way. Doing this frees your loved one up from feeling like they have to hide the truth, and it often helps the two of you to develop some understanding between each other.
During this stage in life, it sometimes feels like there is nothing to say, but it is important to remember that your loved one needs opportunities for conversation. This is especially true if they are bedbound or feeling weak and having a difficult time leaving the home. You do not have to talk about dying all the time. In fact, it is helpful to relive some happy memories. Reminisce over favorite songs, picture albums or even while enjoying a much loved treat. This can help your loved one to find some closure and feel more prepared for what is ahead.
Having conversations is not just about doing all the talking. Make sure to listen too – carefully. A person approaching the end of life may have a difficult time speaking clearly, but that does not mean they do not have important messages to share. Never assume that something is simple babble. Instead, try to keep the room quiet. Give your loved one time, and really listen to what they have to say.
Your Presence Matters
At times, the room might seem very quiet, still or even sterile. Especially when the end is very near, this can make people uncomfortable. Even during this time, do your best to show up. Your loved one needs to feel your presence. They may need this more than they can express. Knowing you were there in the final moments will likely later mean a lot to you too. Do not miss this opportunity as it may not be one you get again.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember in all of this is to make the most of every moment you have with your terminally ill loved one. Take advantage of the support systems you have in place and the emotional and spiritual support provided by a hospice provider like Salus Homecare San Diego. Doing this helps to protect your emotional health and the well being of your loved one. It is the most certain way to find comfort and develop a sense of reassurance about your relationship and even the dying process.